The nonprofit Sundance Institute announced the recipient of the 2023 Merata Mita Fellowship, an annual fellowship named in honor of the late Māori filmmaker Merata Mita (1942-2010) created for Indigenous women-identified artists poised to direct their first feature film. This year’s Fellow, Caroline Monnet (Anishinaabe/French) was recognized at the Native Forum Celebration at The Park in Park City, Utah during the 2023 Sundance Film Festival.
The Native Forum Celebration featured an opening blessing by Bart Powakee and the Red Spirit Singers from the Ute Tribal Nation and remarks from Sundance Institute CEO Joana Vicente, Sundance Institute Board member Amy Redford, Nia Tero (represented by Tracy Rector), and Indigenous Program Director Adam Piron (Kiowa and Mohawk). Piron also announced the five 2022 Native Lab Fellows, three 2022 Full Circle Fellowship Fellows, and acknowledged the eleven Indigenous-made projects from around the world that are premiering at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival from January 19-29.
Caroline Monnet (Anishinaabe/French) is a multidisciplinary artist from Outaouais, Quebec. She studied Sociology and Communication at the University of Ottawa (CA) and the University of Granada (ES) before pursuing a career in visual arts and film. Her work has been programmed extensively in exhibitions and festivals internationally, including Sundance, Palm Springs (USA), TIFF, Cannes (FR), and the Whitney Biennale. In 2016, she was selected for the Cinéfondation residency in Paris. She is based in Montréal.
Merata Mita (Ngāi Te Rangi/Ngāti Pikiao) broke new ground as the first Māori woman to write and direct a dramatic feature film. She was an advisor and artistic director of the Sundance Institute Native Lab from 2000 to 2009, championing emerging Indigenous talent. In continuation of her legacy, the Sundance Institute is in its eighth year of awarding a fellowship in her name to an Indigenous woman-identified filmmaker from a global applicant pool. The Fellowship includes yearlong support with activities, including attendance at the Sundance Film Festival, access to strategic and creative services offered by Sundance Institute’s artist programs, a cash grant and mentorship opportunities.
“After years of watching her work evolve across many mediums, selecting Caroline Monnet as this year’s Merata Mita Fellow not only made sense, but her oeuvre also echoed Merata’s own creative spirit of breaking the mold and demanding that the work of Indigenous artists be met on its own terms,” said Adam Piron, Director, Sundance Institute Indigenous Program. “We’re beyond thrilled to be supporting Caroline in this next step in her creative journey and are elated to be a part of the creation of her film.”
“I am honoured to be named this year’s Merata Mita’s fellow and to be following in the legacy of such talented Indigenous women that have accomplished groundbreaking work,” said Caroline Monnet. “This acknowledgement from the Sundance Institute comes at a pivotal time for me. This recognition will allow me to continue on my cinematic journey and enable me to strengthen and further define my cinematic voice. This acknowledgment inspires me to continue to challenge myself and to strive for greater heights. I recognize that this would not be possible without the support of the indigenous filmmaking community and my community as a whole. “
Encouraging self-determination in storytelling for Indigenous filmmakers and decolonizing the screen has been a goal at Sundance Institute since its inception. Native American filmmakers were invited to participate in the founding meetings of Sundance Institute and its first filmmaking Lab in 1981. The Institute’s Feature Film Program, Documentary Film Program, and Sundance Film Festival conduct ongoing outreach to Indigenous artists and collaborate with the Indigenous Program to identify artists for support across the globe. Over the years, the Sundance Institute has supported leading Indigenous filmmakers such as Lyle Corbine, Chris Eyre, Sydney Freeland, Sterlin Harjo, Sky Hopinka, Jr., Elle-Maija Tailfeathers and Taika Waititi.
Last year’s Merata Mita fellow, Fox Maxy, will be premiering their debut feature Gush as part of the New Frontier selection at the 2023 Sundance FIlm Festival.